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ICT Boosts Citizen Journalism in the Countryside

The reporters, working under a partnership with Uganda Radio Network and DW Akademie, a Germany based media development agency, depend on internet aided and solar powered smartphones to collect and disseminate accurate and reliable information on topical and pressing community needs to radio stations.
Radio Sets Powered by Solar Charged Batteries are becoming many accross rural communities in Northern Uganda

Audio 5

Rural communities in Africa are embracing citizen journalism as information and communication technologies change social interactions and the way of doing business.

Many of such communities are in post conflict Northern Uganda where use of smart phones is steadily gaining momentum thanks to the emergence of internet based information and communication technologies.

Although the concept of citizen journalism is still new in many of these communities, a group of more than 20 young women and men spread in eight districts across northern Uganda have enrolled under a project that's promoting its practice.

The reporters, working under a partnership with Uganda Radio Network and DW Akademie, a Germany based media development agency, depend on internet aided and solar powered smartphones to collect and disseminate accurate and reliable information on topical and pressing community needs to radio stations.

Citizen reporters use as low as 500 Shillings to buy mobile data for transmitting text, photos and voice information to the radio station.

Angelo Okello, a citizen reporter in Kalongo Sub County in Agago district is stationed between the agro-pastoralist Karamoja region and Acholi. He says conflicts over water, land, grazing pastures and crop fields destroyed during droughts are common in the two places.

He says he is using citizen journalism to prevent bloodshed and insecurity resulting from such conflicts.

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Catherine Akot Nono, another citizen reporter, is based in Anaka Town Council in Nwoya district, few Kilometers away from Murchison Falls National Park. Akot says citizen journalism is opening a new window of hope for communities around the park who are frequently up in arms against stray elephants and other herbivores eating their crop fields

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Isaac Okot, one of two citizen journalists in Elegu border town says his network of contacts has transformed access to information and service delivery to the people.

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Douglas Mutumba, the Client Relations Officer at Uganda Radio Network says citizen journalism has taken shape in seven districts in Uganda. They include Gulu, Lira, Kagadi, Kabale, Arua, Mbale and Masaka, where URN is supporting the development of free and transparent media, quality journalism and other programs drawn to boost media skills.

Mutumba says that the initiative works on the principle that every day, community members volunteer to collect and transmit stories to radio stations. This, he says has increased coverage and uptake of local content into mainstream media.

Arthur Okot, a News Editor with Gulu based Mega FM's says citizen reporters are dramatically increasing citizen participation in decision making, accountability, planning and service delivery.

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Some of the most frequently covered news topics include agriculture in post conflict situation, livelihood recovery, local government activities, politics, crimes, water crisis and other general breaking news.